Skip to comments.Daschle Loses It
Posted on 02/01/2003 12:09:27 PM PST by Pokey78
MUCH OF THE WORLD focused last week on Saddam Hussein's continuing failure to comply with U.N. demands for disarmament, and on President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle had a different agenda. He spent the week undermining the president by questioning his honesty.
Last Monday, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix addressed the Security Council. He detailed the many examples of Iraq's refusal to comply with U.N. Resolution 1441. The same day, Daschle spoke to a roomful of journalists at the National Press Club. He delivered a stinging indictment of the Bush administration, charging, among many other things, that President Bush has been misleading the American people. The result, he said, is a "credibility gap" between the wartime leader and those he is responsible for protecting.
Daschle is primarily concerned that President Bush has not proven that Saddam Hussein presents, in Daschle's words, "a very imminent threat." That's a high bar. It seems less a realistic request of the Bush administration than a deliberately unattainable standard of evidence. For, as Daschle surely knows, if President Bush had proof that the Iraqi threat were imminent, to say nothing of "very imminent," the president wouldn't waste time publishing the evidence. He would eliminate the threat.
Daschle's posturing makes the top Senate Democrat look less like a concerned statesman than a determined political opponent. And already, polls show a chasm between Republicans and Democrats on national security issues. A survey released last week by James Carville's Democracy Corps found that respondents trust Republicans over Democrats to keep Americans safe by 47 percent to 16 percent. Some of Daschle's fellow Democrats are nervous.
"I like Tom and he's in a tough position here," says fellow Democrat Evan Bayh, senator from Indiana. "The base of the Democratic party is in profound disagreement with the rest of the country on this issue. And I guess for Tom not to recognize that would be political suicide."
Still, Bayh rejects Daschle's argument. "I don't understand those who want to wait until the threat is imminent," Bayh says. "Do we wait until the missiles are launched, until the smallpox is in the country? The consequences of error could be catastrophic."
If hawkish Democrats are worried by Daschle's approach to policy, they are likely to be dismayed by his more personal attacks. As Washington Post congressional reporter Jim VandeHei wrote Thursday, "In recent days, Daschle has accused the president of essentially lying to the American people."
In an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation" on January 26, Daschle was asked eight questions about Iraq. Three times he stated that the "burden of proof" is on the Bush administration. This despite 12 years of Iraqi noncompliance and 17 U.N. resolutions requiring Saddam to prove that he has disarmed.
Daschle was more specific in his talk at the press club. "If we have proof of nuclear and biological weapons, why don't we show that proof to the world, as President Kennedy did 40 years ago when he sent Adlai Stevenson to the United Nations to show the world U.S. photographs of offensive missiles in Cuba?" And in a floor speech two days later, Daschle discussed the Iraqi threat not in terms of the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein has, but of those he "could acquire."
Yet Daschle's own record on the matter of using force in Iraq reveals him to be a hypocrite. And the tortured logic he employs to question the main premise of the Bush administration's Iraq policy--that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction--exposes him as a political opportunist.
First, the history. Five years ago, on February 17, 1998, with troops massing in the Persian Gulf, President Clinton went to the Pentagon to prepare the nation for the likelihood of war. Clinton's speech was important enough to warrant a "CBS News Special Report." Dan Rather, not the soaps, greeted viewers who tuned in on their lunch hour. "War is a very strong word, but something akin to war is definitely planned," reported Rather. "Our men and women are in position, if given the command to strike by the president of the United States, and the president is going to talk about his reasons for considering putting those men and women in even greater danger."
Clinton gave a strong speech. "Just consider some of the facts," he said.
Iraq repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that it had left in its possession after the Gulf War. When UNSCOM would then uncover evidence that gave the lie to those declarations, Iraq would simply amend the reports. For example, Iraq revised its nuclear declarations four times within just 14 months and it has submitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which has been rejected by UNSCOM. In 1995, Hussein Kamal, Saddam's son-in-law, and chief organizer of Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction program, defected to Jordan. He revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons and missiles and the capacity to build many more. Then and only then did Iraq admit to developing numbers of weapons in significant quantities and weapon stocks. Previously, it had vehemently denied the very thing it just simply admitted once Saddam Hussein's son-in-lawdefected to Jordan and told the truth.
Daschle, for one, was convinced. Actually, he was convinced even before President Clinton "made the case" on February 17. Six days earlier, as the U.S.-Iraq standoff intensified, a reporter had asked about a suggestion from Saddam Hussein that members of Congress fly to Baghdad to negotiate. "Senator Daschle, is there any sentiment in the Senate to take up Saddam's invitation to go over and have a chat?"
Daschle: "Well, I don't know. You know, you can send congressmen or cruise missiles, I suppose. But I--well, the cruise missiles are the smart weapons. No, I don't mean that. No, I don't think that that's in our interest. We've had many efforts. If he wants to sit down and negotiate, we will do so. But he has to agree that there will be compliance with international law and the agreements that he signed in 1991. Period."
The bottom line? "There's no reason to talk unless he's willing to acknowledge and commit to that realization. Short of that, there's no purpose in more talk."
There's no purpose in more talk. That belief might explain what Daschle did next. Not content merely to offer rhetorical backing to President Clinton, Daschle tried to rally his fellow Democrats to support the use of force. He reiterated the administration's argument. "'Look, we have exhausted virtually our diplomatic effort to get the Iraqis to comply with their own agreements and with international law. Given that, what other option is there but to force them to do so?' That's what they're saying. This is the key question. And the answer is, we don't have another option. We have got to force them to comply, and we are doing so militarily."
Daschle didn't insist that the Clinton administration obtain congressional approval. Neither did he require the president to go to the U.N. In fact, the Clinton administration's position, as articulated by National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, was that both steps were unnecessary. Tom Daschle said nothing in protest. Similarly, Daschle never demanded evidence proving Saddam to be a "very imminent threat," and he never called for "proof to the world" that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. He now insists on both from the Bush administration.
I asked Daschle last Wednesday what accounted for his change of position. "At that time, of course, President Clinton enjoyed broad-based international support," he said. "It is essential for us to consult with the international community now."
Even if this were true, it hardly explains the vast differences between Tom Daschle in 1998 and Tom Daschle in 2003. And it's not true.
Then, as now, France, Russia, and China opposed doing anything about Iraqi intransigence. And then, as now, several allies supported our efforts. Most of the countries supporting President Clinton in 1998 support President Bush today--the notable exceptions being Germany and Canada. Another major difference is found in the support from Gulf countries. In 1998, we had Kuwait. Today, we are likely to have Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration also seems to have won the support of Jordan, a nation that didn't support Clinton in 1998 and even remained neutral in the 1991 Gulf War.
But before I could point that out, Daschle had reverted to his talking points on burdens of proof and imminent threats. Once again, he called for evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The more he talked, the more obvious it became that he is challenging not only the Bush administration's strategy for dealing with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but also its claim that Iraq possesses such weapons.
WHEN U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTORS left Iraq in 1998, Saddam Hussein still had not accounted for vast stocks of chemical and biological weapons produced in the 1980s and 1990s. They were also absent from Iraq's "full, final and complete" declaration of its weapons submitted to the U.N. Security Council in early December 2002. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz catalogued the omissions in a recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
There are also gaps in accounting for such deadly items as 1.5 tons of the nerve gas VX, 550 mustard filled artillery shells, and 400 biological weapons-capable aerial bombs that the U.N. Special Commission concluded in 1999 Iraq had failed to account for. There is no mention of Iraqi efforts to procure uranium from abroad. Iraq's declaration fails to account for its manufacture of missile fuel for ballistic missiles Iraq claims it does not have. Nor is there information on 13 recent Iraqi missile tests cited by Dr. Blix that exceeded the 150-kilometer limit. Iraq has not verifiably accounted for, at a minimum, two tons of anthrax growth media. There is no explanation of the connection between Iraq's extensive unmanned aerial vehicle programs and chemical or biological agent dispersal. There is no information about Iraq's mobile biological weapon production facilities.
By suggesting that Saddam may not currently possess weapons of mass destruction, Daschle implicitly accepts a series of bizarre assumptions: (1) that Saddam Hussein unilaterally disarmed at some point between 1998 and 2002, the four-year gap between U.N. inspections on Iraqi soil, (2) that he disarmed despite his refusal to do so for the seven years inspectors were in Iraq (1991-1998), and (3) that he somehow failed to notify the international community of this disarmament--a heads-up that would have ended the U.N. sanctions that have strangled the Iraqi economy.
No serious person believes this. Does Tom Daschle? I put the question to him directly.
"You don't think Saddam disarmed unilaterally, do you?"
"We don't have any concrete evidence that he has not," Daschle replied. "And that's the issue."
THAT ASSERTION places Daschle on the farthest antiwar fringe of his party, for it raises the possibility that Saddam Hussein is telling the truth and George W. Bush is lying. It may also explain why Daschle seems to be taking cues from the likes of Rep. Jim McDermott, one of three "Baghdad Democrats" who traveled to Iraq last fall to criticize the Bush administration. The similarities are striking.
In October, McDermott appeared from Baghdad on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos. He was asked about a rather outrageous claim he made before he left, that "the president of the United States will lie to the American people in order to get us into this war." McDermott didn't back down: "I believe that sometimes they give out misinformation. . . . It would not surprise me if they came out with some information that is not provable, and they, they shift it. First they said it was al Qaeda, then they said it was weapons of mass destruction. Now they're going back and saying it's al Qaeda again."
Here's Daschle from his recent appearance at the National Press Club: "The White House has given many reasons: because Saddam is a threat to his neighbors, because he gassed the Kurds, because he tried to kill the first President Bush, because he's making weapons of mass destruction, because, they say, he was involved in September 11. When they give so many rotating reasons it makes people wonder which one is the real one, or if the real reason is none of the above."
Leave aside the point that the White House has been careful not to claim there is evidence linking Saddam to September 11. Why shouldn't the president give more than one justification for his policy? The issue isn't how many arguments there are but whether they are sound.
One that Daschle himself was buying as recently as four months ago was Saddam's record in the area of weapons of mass destruction. As Daschle said on the floor of the Senate on October 10, 2002: "We know that Iraq maintains stockpiles of some of the world's deadliest chemical weapons including VX, sarin, and mustard gas. We know that Iraq is developing deadlier ways to deliver these horrible weapons, including unmanned drones and long-range ballistic missiles. And we know Saddam Hussein is committed to one day possessing nuclear weapons."
What was that about a credibility gap?
I hope to GOD, John Thune can defeat him in 2004.
Love the headline.
Daschle is the poorest excuse for a Senator, but a good excuse for a Democrat.
Not hard to tell who our enemies are these days. . .
. . .does this Marxist Demrat even come close to representing his Constituency?
Bayh is thinking pretty clear here. Poor Tommy D. is in LaLa Land as usual here.:(
What is this Press Club anyway, a wholly owned subsidiary of the socialist RAT party?? Just the other day it was Fat Teddy who 'weighed in' with his irrelevance.
As it is, he is just a rat.
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